I currently use the free new version of AVG plus Zonealarm. Talking to a
colleague at work the other day he mentioned he uses Norton because the AVG
virus database is about 9 months out of date, implying that the auto updates I
receive almost on a daily basis are very much out of date. Is this true and a
consequence of going for a freebee? I have tried McAfee and couldn’t get on
with it at all.
I’ll put it this way: if AVG free were 9 months out of date, you would have
heard it from a lot more places than just a colleague. As it is, the free
version of AVG is one of several reputable anti-virus programs recommended by
many folks around the industry.
You do bring up a good point, though, that I want to take this opportunity
to remind people about.
When they get a new computer, for example, they might start out
nine months behind with any anti-virus program.
And that needs to be fixed.
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Anti-virus programs have two parts: the program itself that knows how to
scan your computer, and the database of viruses to look for.
While the program can remain relatively unchanging and still work well for
you, the database cannot. New viruses are appearing every day, so it’s
important that the database be updated on a regular basis. Every nine months is
not enough. In fact, every month is not enough, and every week is pushing it.
If you’re a relatively heavy computer and internet user I recommend making sure
that your anti-virus database gets checked daily.
Why is this so important? Let’s say you’re updating weekly, on Sunday. On
Monday a new virus is detected, and the anti-virus manufacturers put out
updates to their database. Updates that, while available, you won’t take until
the following Sunday. In the mean time, the new virus is making its way around
the internet, infecting unprotected machines. Come Friday or Saturday, a full
five days after the database update, you’re still vulnerable. Your machine
could get infected. A week is an eternity on the internet. Had you been
updating monthly? That’s eons in internet time.
What I’ll call “the nine month problem” can happen when you first install a
an anti-virus program, or when you get a new machine with an anti-virus program
pre-installed. That program, and the database that comes with it, are current
as of the time you downloaded it, the time the CD it’s on was created, or the
time that the manufacturer got their master copy. That could be hours, days,
weeks, or even nine months ago. So yes, your new machine could have an
anti-virus database that’s quite old.
I recommend making sure that your anti-virus database gets checked
There are two things you need to do whenever you install a new anti-virus
Immediately update the database. Some installation programs will actually do
this for you, but particularly if your anti-virus program was pre-installed,
you’ll want to make sure, and if needed take this step yourself.
Configure the anti-virus program to automatically check for database updates
and download them. That could be once a day when you log on, or in the middle
of the night if you leave your machine on overnight. Or you could choose some
other schedule. The important thing is that it happen, and that it be automatic
– you shouldn’t have to think about it after setting it up.
Unfortunately exactly how you do each of those two things will vary a great
deal based on exactly which anti-virus program you’re running. But do them, you
must. Check the documentation for the program you’ve chosen – this is so
important it should be very easy to find.
And for the record, the same is also true of any anti-spyware software
you’re running. While anti-virus and anti-spyware programs operate differently
they do share a common characteristic: they use a database of known malware to
look for. In both cases that database must be updated regularly to be able to
identify and protect against new threats.